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Puerto Rico: “Why So Much Fear of an Image?”

The online magazine 80 Grados [es] published this week an article from photojournalist Ricardo Alcaraz in which he denounces the president of the University of Puerto Rico, Miguel Muñoz, for censoring one of the photos [es] from a photo essay Alcaraz was preparing for the 25th anniversary edition of the University's monthly newspaper, Diálogo. Alcaraz is the sole remaining journalist from the paper's original staff.

The photo in question is from the student strike at the University of Puerto Rico in 2010 and shows a police officer shouting to a distressed female student. Alcaraz states that the the president of the university had concerns with some photos from the start:

En estos días está circulando la más reciente edición de Diálogo, cuya portada está dedicada a los 25 años del periódico. En este número estaba supuesto a publicarse en dos de sus páginas un foto-ensayo, con una selección que hice de las imágenes más representativas de mi trabajo en estos 25 años, pero no salió. Fue censurado por la nueva directora de Diálogo, porque el presidente de la Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR), Miguel Muñoz, objetaba algunas de las fotos incluidas en el ensayo.

These days the most recent edition of Diálogo has been published, the front page dedicated to the 25 years of the newspaper. On this issue two of its pages were supposed to feature a two page photo essay, with a selection of the most representative photos of my work for the last 25 years, but it was not published. It was censored by the new director of Diálogo, because the University of Puerto Rico's president, Miguel Muñoz, objected to some of the photos included in the essay.
This photo by Ricardo Alcaraz of the 2010 student strike was to be published on the 25th anniversary of Diálogo. The paper's director did not want the photo used because of objections by the university's president. Rather than taking the photo out, Alcaraz decided to retire the photo essay altogether. Photo published with Alcaraz's permission)

This photo by Ricardo Alcaraz of the 2010 student strike was to be published on the 25th anniversary of Diálogo. The paper's director did not want the photo used because of objections by the university's president. Rather than taking the photo out, Alcaraz decided to retire the photo essay altogether. Photo published with Alcaraz's permission)

However, after some discussions between Alcaraz and the director, everything boiled down to the one photo from the strike (above), and Alcaraz decided to pull out the entire essay:

Se me pidió que la reconsiderara; que si retiraba o cambiaba esta foto, el foto-ensayo se publicaba. Pero me negué, y le dije a la directora que si yo retiraba esa foto con tal de publicar el resto de las imágenes, eso sería faltarme el respeto a mí mismo. Resultado: el ensayo no se publicó.

I was asked to reconsider; that if I took down or changed the photo, the photo essay would be published. But I refused, and told the director that if I retired the photo just to get all the other photos published I would be disrespecting myself. The result: the essay was not published.

Alcaraz laments that this is how the administration has decided to celebrate 25 years of Diálogo:

Así celebra esta administración universitaria los 25 años del periódico: con la intolerancia y la censura.

This is how the university's administration celebrates 25 years of the newspaper: with intolerance and censorhip.

Alcaraz's predicament has not gone unnoticed. Dozens of people have republished the censored photo on their walls on Facebook and distributed the link to the 80grados story on Twitter. There has been an outpouring of solidarity and outrage.

It is not clear why the administration opposes the publication, and Alcaraz does wonder:

¿Por qué se le teme tanto a una imagen? ¿Realmente tiene tanta fuerza? ¿Influye tanto? ¿Por qué tanto empeño en impedir que se vea?

Why so much fear of an image? Does it really have so much strength? Does it influence so much? Why this insistence in preventing it from being seen?
* Global Voices Puerto Rico has republished many of Ricardo Alcaraz's photos during the past years. Please see the Special Coverage of the Puerto Rico Student Protests 2010/11 and, more recently, March Against the Pipeline.

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